China’s Avic has joined the first MA700 wings to the fuselage section, bringing the program closer toward the construction of its first static test aircraft, designated 10001. Avic confirmed the update over the weekend on its social media platform WeChat, stating subsidiary Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation had completed the wing assembly last Friday.
According to the Chinese airframer, engineers have made steady progress this year in developing the third member of its “Modern Ark” regional turboprop, whose predecessors it designated the MA60 and MA600. In late May, the MA700’s main and nose fuselage sections rolled off the assembly line and by late July, Avic’s Shaanxi Aircraft unit had combined the nose, forward, and main fuselage sections.
Avic announced plans for the program in 2007 and issued a design model in 2008; previous plans called for the company to fly its first MA700 prototype in 2017 but it later moved the launch date to 2018. A series of setbacks has now pushed its first test flight to year-end, and certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) by 2021. While Avic has not confirmed whether it will pursue endorsement from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and/or the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the state-owned manufacturer has yet to rule out the possibility.
Avic did not comment on whether its timeline had shifted but did call 2019 “an important year” for the development of its new regional turboprop. The Chinese airframer maintains it has collected 285 orders from 11 domestic and foreign operators; however, at least one of those operators—Cambodia Bayon Airlines—is now defunct.
Designed to fly as far as 1,458 nm and with a cruise speed of around 343 knots, the 86-seat MA700 features Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics and air data systems and two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150C engines driving six-blade Dowty R504 propellers. Both Chinese and foreign suppliers contribute to the program, including Honeywell, Safran, Parker Aerospace, and Meggitt.
Priced at about $25 million, the MA700 will compete in the same class as the French-Italian ATR 72, De Havilland's newly acquired Q Series, and Russia’s Ilyushin Il-114, expected to re-enter production starting in 2021-2023.
Deliveries of the first models in the Modern Ark series—the MA60 (a stretched version of the Xian Y7-200A, which designers based on the Antonov An-24) and the upgraded MA600—have exceeded 100 units.